Lean is a practice where the main idea is to maximize customer value and minimize waste.  Generally, this means to deliver value for customers with fewer resources. In other words it is a set of management practices based on Toyota Production System. These practices are applied in manufacturing as well as in service industries. Lean integration drives elimination of waste by adopting reusable elements, high automation and quality improvements. In this post I will try to cover most of the principles and techniques that can be applied in lean project.

Decide as late as possible – ALAP

Projects are always associated with indeterminacy and best results can be reached if you apply options-based approach which is called “as late as possible” (ALAP). Most of the case it is intended for decisions which are irreplaceable. Important and critical decisions can be made for the latest point without causing problems.  But one extremely important thing is not to leave those decisions too late because this can affect the flow of a project and make it more difficult. On the other hand, the later you can safely leave your decisions, the more necessary information you are able to have to make the right choice. All deferring decisions mean that all options should be open as long as possible as well as flexible. For example in every project there are critical resources that are costly or short, this is where you need to focus and make as efficient as it can be. We can always plan every tiny bit of our task and throw the plan away whenever something changes – new customer requirements, breaking environment rules and so on.  ALAP helps you to come into the right conclusion on the right time with as less resources spent as possible.

Deliver as fast as possible – AFAP

This technique is used to get feedback on usability of an approach as well as whether customers are really satisfied about product functionality. By delivering fast you just eliminate the potential for the perpetuation of incorrect or incomplete assumptions. The shorter is the iteration the better learning and communication process within the team. Rapid delivery gives an opportunity for some customers to delay decisions while for others this means quicker satisfaction. The main thing is to make everything just in time. This principle allows recognition of specific requirements but the most important thing is that, it is offered to the end customer in a more reasonable time frame. First thing the team does – meet the needs of customer and then try to solve problems for consumers to implement their needs. Customers value rapid delivery of a quality product. Team should develop a process which allows dynamic environment with potential changes in requirements, yet it should be confident about the whole process – repeatable and well documented with clear paths based on events. Focus should be put on the end value, like producing an electromagnetic auto hammer to punch nails with laser sight – sounds complex and expensive, customer needs only simple tool to fulfill his need of hammering nails.

Lean thinking

The organization must view itself as just one part of an extended supply chain. Every employee needs to find out even if a small effort adds value for the end customer. If they find non value activity, they must remove it as a waste. This ensures that your service or product will reach customer without any interruption or delays. Key value streams must be well organized within an organization because of the flow across various departments and functions. That is why employees need to identify and map the value stream. It’s extremely important, because it delivers the value to the end customer. When customer needs are identified the next thing to do is to find out how your team will deliver it to them. Moreover, each company needs to understand a demand of customers on their service or product and then create a process to respond to this.

No for overproduction

Business success depends on how the resources are distributed for production. The primary aim in lean production is to reduce overproduction. Attention must be paid on various things if you want to avoid wastefulness. First thing is to gather accurate information about the demand of customer and provide with quick feedback to the production process. Also, you need to build long-term relationships with your suppliers as well as customers and employees. This unlocks flexible solutions rather than mindlessly redundant inventory.  Moreover, supervisors need to engage in editing to remove those things from the product that customers don’t want. In other words overproduction should be measured by elements which are not needed for consumers. All those guidelines will let you produce only a required amount of products or services and no more – less money spent, more earned.

Taking everything into account, lean practice ensures a better production of service or products with fewer resources. That is why organizations need to do upgrading to get better results. The usage of lean practices in business might lead you to a long term success avoiding overproduction and making your customers satisfied.

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